Adrian Lamo: From Homeless Hacker to Lamer?
From the Sacramento Bee
On Thursday afternoon, Adrian Lamo sat quietly in the corner of a Starbucks inside the Carmichael Safeway, tapping on a laptop that requires his thumbprint to turn on and answering his cell phone.
The first call, he said, came from an FBI agent asking about a death threat Lamo had received.
The second was from a Domino’s pizza outlet. One of his many new enemies had left his name and number on a phony order.
The third was from Army counterintelligence, he said.
In other circumstances, it might be easy to dismiss his claims.
He is an unassuming 29-year-old who lives with his parents on a dead-end street in Carmichael and was recently released from a mental ward, where he was held briefly until doctors discovered his odd behavior stemmed from Asperger’s syndrome.
On Thursday, he was dressed in black. A rumpled sport coat covered his bone-thin frame, and a Phillips-head screw pierced his left earlobe – a real screw, not an ear stud made to look like one.
He spoke slowly and methodically, sounding almost drunk, a side effect of medication he takes to treat Asperger’s, anxiety and his rapid heartbeat.
But Lamo is the most famous computer hacker in the world at the moment, the subject of national security debates and international controversy – and a target of scorn in the hacker community that once celebrated him.
He first gained notoriety in 2003, when he was charged with hacking into the New York Times computer system, essentially just to prove he could.
“I just wanted to see what their network was like,” he said. “It was going to be the Washington Post, but I got distracted by a banner ad.”
He has re-emerged in the spotlight following his decision last month to tell federal agents he had reason to believe an Army private in Iraq was leaking classified information. He said the information was going to WikiLeaks.org, a website based in Sweden that publishes information about governments and corporations submitted by anonymous individuals.
The soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst who was stationed near Baghdad, is reportedly being held by the Army in Kuwait while the case is investigated.
Lamo said Manning contacted him online after reading a profile of him on wired.com, which first reported Manning’s arrest and Lamo’s involvement last Sunday. Manning, he said, bragged about leaking classified military information to WikiLeaks, including the so-called “Collateral Murder” video of a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians in 2007. That video appeared on WikiLeaks in April.
Lamo said Manning also claimed to have leaked other materials to the website, including 260,000 U.S. classified diplomatic cables.
“I couldn’t just not do anything, knowing lives were in danger,” Lamo said. “It’s classified information, and when you play Russian roulette, how do you know there’s not a bullet in the next chamber?”
Full article HERE
Adrian Lamo, a name that in the hacker community for a while, was a zeitgeist for the altruism of hacking in the original sense. He popped into systems and networks with only a web browser and told the companies he had compromised in an effort to secure them. Frankly, the recent diagnosis of Aspergers makes a lot of sense to me and likely to others who have met him or know of him by watching him. He has an interesting personality that borders on the strange and Aspergers may well explain his focus on such minutiae as he has shown up with in his hacks.
With the events of late regarding his turning in the alleged source for Wikileaks, there has been a fair bit of loathing on the part of the hacker community against Lamo and I for one think that he did the right thing. Look, this guy Manning has yet to be shown to be a Daniel Ellsberg here. Daniel released data that unequivocally showed that our government was lying to us about Viet Nam. Perhaps some of what Manning was seeing was on par with that, but, he went to Wikileaks instead of say the New York Times with his allegations. In fact, I have not heard anything substantive out of Manning that would lead me to believe that he is anything more than a hacker wannabe or.. Just someone craving attention. The mere fact he went to Lamo on this show’s more about his motives than anything else.
If you look at the chat transcripts there is no real sense that this guy was looking to put an end to conspiracy as much as get Lamo to like him… Simple as that I think. So, what Lamo did was in my mind right. He reported the potential for large leaks of cables that could blow NOC agents all over the world potentially as well as place our diplomatic aspirations globally at risk. Who knows what else might have been given to Wikileaks and or may be out of pocket elsewhere thanks to Manning. The damage could be long in coming and severe really and Lamo could see that. Not to mention that he knew enough that now he was a party to treasonous acts and could by just knowing of it, be a co-conspirator had he not reported. If he thought he knew the dark side of the judicial system before with the Grey Lady incident, he certainly could fathom what would happen to him on treason charges.
So, all the hacker kiddiez out there.. Leave him alone. He actually did the right thing here. Cut out the death threats and all the BS that certainly is going to go on… Especially at DC18 I am sure he will get some negative attention because many of the hacker types are childish narcissists to start. Its time to grow up.
Now, with all that said, should there have been some epic malfeasance on the part of the government along the lines of the Pentagon Papers, then I would understand in passing such data to the Times or perhaps even to Wikileaks. However, without there being confirmed actions on the part of our government, I cannot agree with what has happened. Yes, the footage that came out and the subsequent recognition that civilians in a war zone were killed by US forces fire is bad and perhaps there was some attempt at covering up, it does not merit the continued and further exploitation of all data at the hands of this guy.
For an analyst he sure wasn’t analyzing the data. I guess that some of this all will come out eventually if there is a trial that can be reported on by the press. Though, likely it will not as everything is classified.
What may be more telling is that what Manning did was so easily done with SIPRNET systems and alleged compartmented data. Once again, the measures that the military had taken, even with the assumption of “trust but verify” were clearly not being carried out here. I have heard the stories before and seen the fall out from processes not being followed where security is involved not only in the military area, but in every day corporate life. If you fail to carry out your basics of OPSEC and INFOSEC, then you FAIL epically to retain your data security.
Bad on the military here.
In any case, Lamo did the right thing either for his own skin’s safety or a real sense of just how far reaching the damage could be to this country. As well, this incident may actually get him closer to being a truly functional member of the security community.